When I talk for the first time to a travel writer in the process of building their career—whether they’re just starting or they’ve been at it for decades but have never felt that ‘click’ of sustainability where they know they can do this and make the money they want for as long as they want—an eerily similar thing typically happens.

It takes a lot of guises though.

These writers are typically asking me a very specific, tactical question about how to do one specific thing: write pitches more quickly, make sure their ideas fit a magazine, find the right place to pitch a specific piece, or get started with those lucrative content marketing gigs.

And as I’m explaining the answer, the odd thing happens.

They suddenly start asking me about a totally different area of travel writing. If they’ve been asking me about magazines, they switch to content marketing questions, or visa versa. Or they go from asking me about working on their own blog to how to get gigs blogging for others.

It takes different forms, but it always happens for the same reason: they realize the approach they’ve been obsessively researching simply isn’t actually going to help them get what they really want out of their travel writing.

Why Getting Clear On Your Values Will Pay Off in Your Travel Writing

There is no end to the research and publications on how values-driven organizations of all kinds outperform those without a clear value set.

The links above from places like Forbes and the Harvard Business Review may feel totally inapplicable to you because they’re about “corporations.” I get it.

You’re an individual freelancer, not Zappos!

But that doesn’t mean this very fundamental shift in strategy doesn’t give you a massive leg up as a travel writer. Quite the opposite.

While this approach doesn’t just work for travel writers, since other travel writing freelancers are less likely to have gone through this kind of exercise and then made a practice of making their decisions accordingly, it will give you a bigger edge in our industry than in others.

How to Quickly and Easily to Clarify Your Business Values

In our coaching and Dream Buffet programs right now, we’re in the middle of a month-long program around getting clear on the previous year and what you want for the year ahead, and the values exercise I’m about to share with you is a central part of it.

You can do it at home on your own, but it’s often very eye-opening to do with some freelance colleagues—or even your significant other!

The crux of the exercise is that you start with the list of values below and then begin to whittle down to what matters most to you.

To make it as quick and painless (in terms of agonizing of your sense of self I mean–which is never an easy task), here’s how I recommend working through it:

  1. Write one list with every single word on the list that jumps out to you. Then don’t look at the main list again.
  2. Look over the list you’ve compiled and cross out the ones that you can immediately tell you care about less.
  3. Group works that are similar, like “freedom” and “independence” or “stability” and “dependability” or “realism” and “genuineness” together.
  4. Now cut down to the five most important words (or groups of similar words) to you.
  5. Go through the groups of similar words and find the one that resonates with you most. The shades of difference between these words can be incredibly important in clarifying what really matters to you. I like to look things up in the classic Merriam-Webster dictionary if I’m feeling stuck; getting down to the definition of a thing can be very revealing about what something really means to you and why.
  6. Choose the one that is your most important guiding principle in decision-making.

Have these five overall words and your one most important decision-making factor in hand helps you quickly and with crystal clarity understand which of any set of options in front of you most lines up with what is important to you.

The Values

  • independence
  • family
  • creativity
  • achievement / success
  • friendship
  • acceptance
  • commitment
  • self-control
  • solitude
  • justice
  • service
  • growth
  • helpfulness
  • hope
  • openness
  • passion
  • realism
  • genuineness
  • wealth
  • leisure
  • tolerance
  • flexibility
  • nurturance
  • forgiveness
  • fun
  • tradition
  • honesty
  • authority
  • change
  • dependability
  • mindfulness
  • mastery
  • comfort
  • fame
  • self-knowledge
  • self-acceptance
  • simplicity
  • moderation
  • genuineness
  • freedom
  • autonomy
  • generosity
  • duty
  • adventure
  • courtesy
  • cooperation
  • safety
  • self-esteem
  • stability
  • knowledge
  • purpose
  • pleasure
  • industry
  • excitement
  • order
  • rationality
  • humility
  • challenge

In our full annual review series, which includes five webinars taking stock of the past year and looking forward, we walk through how to use this exercise to plan how to ensure you hit your most important goals for the year ahead. Check it out here.


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